Otago Polytechnic

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Researcher profile for Johanna Zellmer

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Johanna Zellmer


Johanna Zellmer completed a formal apprenticeship as a goldsmith in Germany and holds a Master's degree from the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University. She is a Principal Lecturer and Studio Coordinator for Jewellery & Metalsmithing.

Johanna explores contemporary discourses of capitalism and identity by using currency as a key medium. Through the basic jewellery interventions of cutting and forging minted state symbols from coins, Johanna questions whether the hybrid identities of contemporary culture can be embodied in a single object. The publication of a book alongside her touring exhibition ‘forged’ enabled her to comprehensively capture interlinking concepts of nation states, migration, data collection, access and social encounter as being essential to her practice. She considers contemporary jewellery to be able to function as an analytical tool or instrument of identity politics. Her most recent research considers the advance of human genome counting towards DNA sequencing entire populations. She’s questioning its potential for inclusion or exclusion of migrants, with references to the American sci-fi movie Gattaca from 1997. Accordingly Johanna explores the potential of jewellery to be used as a medium of socio-political knowledge.

Johanna helps students to grow their own making, writing and exhibition practice in the field of contemporary craft. She is teaching across all levels and has been supervising postgraduate projects in both Jewellery and Ceramics in the past, with candidates’ research intersecting a wide range of disciplines, including architecture, medicine and theology. In 2014, she co-founded CLINKProject with Shane Hartdegen (HoD at Hungry Creek Art & Craft School), which prompts annual student and staff collaborations towards experimental and traditional pop-up exhibitions in Auckland and abroad. These have attracted invitations from the Auckland Museum, Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Radiant Pavilion and the Percy Grainger Museum in Melbourne. Key driving aspects developed by the group are collaborative making, public interaction and collective publication in the journal, Scope: Contemporary Research Topics (thescopes.org).

Johanna’s work has been presented in New Zealand's TVONE series Neighbourhood (episode 10 - North Dunedin) and been selected for the Parkin Drawing Prize. She exhibits internationally and her research projects are frequently discussed by Munich-based, Indian philosopher Dr Pravu Mazumdar.

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